Nine out of 10 People Worldwide Breathe Polluted Air, Says UN

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António Guterres

Esther Oluku

Nobody is safe from air pollution, with nine out of 10 people on the planet now breathing polluted air, the United Nations (UN), has warned on World Environment Day (WED).

Celebrated annually on June 5, WED is an initiative that the UN launched in an attempt to raise awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime and how to effectively combat these problems.

The campaign was first held in 1974 with the theme ‘Only One Earth’.

Each year, the UN marks a different focus to commemorate the day while the country hosting the main event for the year chooses the theme for WED.

This year’s edition of the global day has ‘Beat Air Pollution’ as its theme with China as the host.

In a message to mark WED, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said an estimated nine out of 10 people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines.

“This is lowering life expectancy and damaging economies across the planet,” he said.

“To improve air quality, we must know our enemy. Deaths and illnesses from air pollution are caused by tiny particles that penetrate our defences every time we fill our lungs. These particles come from many sources: the burning of fossil fuels for power and transport; the chemicals and mining industries; the open burning of waste; the burning of forests and fields; and the use of dirty indoor cooking and heating fuels, which are major problems in the developing world.”

Guterres noted that over 7 million people die each year from polluted air while others suffer from long term health problems, such as asthma.